Farmers Market Challenge: Go Veggie or Go Home

Part Three in the continuing series.

This post is part of a series – take a look at the last one. 

This week was ground zero.

Since starting the $40 market-spending challenge, we had already had a selection of vegetables in our crisper before getting to the market. I didn’t yet have a true gauge as to how far $40 in veggies would get my family. But last Thursday, the crisper was barrren, the salad spinner empty, and the fridge screaming “Feed me! Feed me!”

This week’s theme: Go veggie or go home!

On average, we typically go to the mom-and-pop vegetable stand twice a week, spending around $70 per week to feed our family of three. That includes vegetables and fruit.

How did the market compare?

This week’s loot:

  • Rainbow chard: 2 for $5
  • kale and tatsoi mustard greens: 2 for $5
  • Head of green spiky lettuce: $3
  • Italian onions: $3
  • Radishes: $1.50
  • Microgreens: $5
  • 5 peaches: $5
  • 300 grams cherry tomatoes: $4.25
  • 2 red peppers: $3.25
  • 1 cucumber: $1.50
  • Green beans: $3
  • Fresh fennel and sage: FREE at the information booth

market-tomatoes

We spent $39.50, which was under budget by 20 cents if you factor in that we were over budget last week by 30 cents.

The best deals, hands down, were the Italian onions and rainbow chard.

Onions!
Onions!

When I saw the onions, 3 medium-sized purple bulbs with crazy long stems, I asked the Yarrow Eco Village vendor if the stems were edible. A huge smile spread across her face: “Oh yes, yes, yes,” she said. Stir-fry, salad, tuna sandwiches; just like scallions, but with a prominent eye-watering punch.

I kid you not, the sliced stems alone filled two tupperware containers. These suckers were like getting two completely different items for the price of one.

The rainbow chard was the same.

market-rhubarb

So many people throw the fibrous stalks away, either assuming them not to be edible or having no idea what to do with them. A quick Google search brought forth a ton of recipes: They can be pickled, used in salads, made into hummus, etc..

Ours went into a grilled rainbow chard salad, boiling and blanching the stems, along with the fava beans we acquired last week, and a roasted garlic bulb from two weeks ago, topped with fresh oregano.

The leaves were sautéed with red cabbage one night; added to a shrimp stir fry another night; and threw fresh into a multitude of salads and smoothies throughout the week.

All it took was a little more thinking/cooking outside our norm to obtain greater value from our market purchases.

Sautéed red cabbage and rainbow chard
Sautéed red cabbage and rainbow chard

The disappointment of the week was the yellow zucchini acquired last week. Unfortunately we didn’t do as much grilling as we had thought, and still had two zucchinis leftover by Monday. Given how long our greens from the market have lasted, I started to believe all market veggies were bionic.

They are not.

The zucchinis grew soft and were starting to lose their colour. I had hoped their insides would still be edible; that a little time on the grill would fix all. It did not. They were unbearably bitter.

Lesson learned.

Tally for the week:

  • 4 breakfast smoothies with greens
  • 5 breakfast/snack peaches
  • 1 breakfast with 2 eggs (from last week’s loot), microgreens and cherry tomatoes
  • 4 full plate salads
  • 4 side salads
  • 6 veggie-filled snacks
  • 1 serving sautéed chard red cabbage (from last week)
  • 2 large servings fava bean salad with chard stems and garlic
  • 4 servings chicken sauté with green beans, and onion
  • 4 servings shrimp stir fry with rainbow chard stems and leaves, onion and stems
  • 1 serving grilled green beans and onion
  • 1 sandwich with microgreens and aged havarti (from last week)
  • 4 servings tuna salad with microgreens and onion
market-breakfast
Everything market grown except the added slice of toast and spicy mustard

For the most part, the only salad supplementation we required for the week were carrots, avocado and mushrooms. We ran out of cucumber on Monday, radishes on Tuesday, and tomatoes and red pepper on Wednesday. We required a $22 fruit store run by Sunday (5 peaches was not going to get us far), which included the purchasing of 2 red peppers and an English cucumber.

Salad: 100% market fresh
Salad: 100% market fresh

In total, we spent $62 this week, which is less than our average, and our fridge is still loaded with greens, chard stems and leaves, red cabbage, green beans, 2 onion bulbs, and 1.5 containers of onion stems.

That means, next market, protein is back on the shopping list.

Happy shopping!

Katie Bartel

Katie is a former journalist and student, and is a type 1 insulin-dependent diabetic into running 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, and marathons. She blogs about her experiences at Princess of Pavement.

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